When I tell most people that I lived and took classes at a Mennonite college, they tend to think of this.
This could not have been further from the truth. Instead my experience was more like this.
Why did I choose a Mennonite college? When I was searching for a residence to live in while studying at a university out of town, one wrong turn and a step into the Mennonite college made me feel at home. First of all, the food that the students were eating actually looked like real food. (Mennonites cooking is delicious.) Secondly, I got a wonderful welcome. A mixed (Black and white) student who probably saw the confused expression on my face and wondered, ‘She’s not from around these parts’ walked over to welcome me and gave her take on the residence which she highly recommended. At that point, I was still still sitting on the fence until I looked down at her feet and saw no shoes. She wore her socks in the residence dining room. I too wanted to be comfortable enough to walk around without shoes. Right then and there, I was hooked and decided to make this college my home.
My experience at the Mennonite college taught me several things.
1. Always eat dessert.
2. Gaining a few pounds (or 15) is really no biggie. (No pun intended.)
3. Doing really Canadian stuff outdoors in nature like going on a hayride, sledding, tubing, and play ice hockey (not exactly outside).
4. Having community dinners each week is really centring no matter how busy my schedule got.
5. There are more than one ways to settle conflicts without fighting or arguing.
6. How to sing in five-part harmony.
7. How to start a film festival with no money.
8. Some white people have hair as kinky as mine.
9. Young adults getting involved in community service projects on the other side of the world, especially in areas of conflict.
10. How to have loads of fun without alcohol.
11. Keeping the doors unlocked.
12. How to dress very casually and not give a #$%^ about how you dress.
13. How to appreciate and love my afro (at the time) even more.
14. That there are many other ancient writings that were not published in the Bible and talked about Jesus like the Jesus child with super powers or the first feminist missionary.
15. That you can get married at a really young age (like 19 0r 20) and still be cool.
16. How to build an igloo and that yes it is okay to sleep in it.
17. Meeting real farm kids. I mean they actually grew up on a farm.
18. Peace and quiet in a college dorm.
19. Co-ed dorms and, in some cases, washrooms.
20. Really good pranks that could go down in history books.
21. My first editing gig.
22. Lots of platonic male friendships.
23. People with really different life experiences. One girl worked as a fire fighter in BC during the summer. One guy had a liver transplant. A few people were adopted. One girl grew up communally– two families under one roof. One guy had just one testicle (he lost the other to cancer) and was not ashamed to tell people about it. There were a few Muslim and atheist (in a Mennonite college, yeah for real) students. Two girls had Black ancestry but you couldn’t really tell by looking at them. One guy’s parents were a nun and a priest. Tons of female engineering and math students. One guy actually worked in Darfur while the conflict was going on.
24. How to make a petition to get what you want.
25. How to cram a lot of people into a car.
One of the most treasured things I gained from being at the college were the friendships I made. My friendships with Clarissa, Nadine, Amy, Brenda, and Susan now span some 14 years. My does time fly! We got along so well that we all moved into a basement apartment with one bathroom. We nicknamed ourselves HOGWASH (House of Godly Women and Spiritual Heroes). I think Nadine thought of that. That’s so Nadine.
I’ll tell you about the HOGWASH girls. We have a few HOGWASH traditions. We often have two annual gatherings and we will try to attend whenever we are able. Most of us are teachers. Most of us are world travellers and have visited many countries. (I have visited only three but I dream to see more of the world.) Some of the HOGWASH girls have lived in different provinces, states, and countries. The HOGWASH girls are also multicultural. Nadine is Lebanese. Clarissa is Hong Kong Chinese. Amy is half Hong Kong Chinese and Scottish. Susan has Amish and Mennonite roots in Germany. Brenda is a mix of Eastern European cultures. Then there is me. You don’t need to be reminded where my roots are from. The HOGWASH girls are active and get very involved in our communities and churches. Our faiths are an important part of our lives. Though we have slightly differing beliefs along the Christian spectrum, we have always managed to find common ground. We also celebrate each of our successes, challenges, and transitions– including births and marriages.
I must say that I looked forward to my HOGWASH shower especially since it was with my friends who I have known for so long. I have to admit that I think the HOGWASH girls were waiting a long time for my turn. Two of the girls got married since I started dating Adam. I was also amazed that most of the HOGWASH girls were able to attend my first bridal shower as well as plan the other. (I guess they were breaking our tradition a bit.)
I am also happy to say that some of the HOGWASH girls will be attending the wedding in Jamaica.
The day I spent in Waterloo was wonderful. We had a barbeque at Nadine’s house. Then we went to pick up my wedding broom. Lastly, we ended up with dessert at Susan’s. What a beautiful day!